PARIS, 16 Mar. (IPS) Iran exploded a diplomatic bombshell announcing on Thursday that it would meet the United States directly for the first time in decades.
"We will accept the request by Ayatollah Abdol Aziz Hakim, the leader of the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SAIRI) about talking to the Americans on Iraqi problems”, Mr. Ali Larijani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council on National Security (SCNS) told a closed door, unscheduled meeting of the Majles, or the Iranian Parliament.
We will accept the request by Ayatollah Abdol Aziz Hakim about talking to the Americans on Iraqi problems.
“No matter of the subject and no matter who initiated it, that Iran accepts to meet Americans directly at this juncture is important, for it shows that the clerical-led political establishment has realised the dangers it faces. It is also very important because such decisions can not be taken without prior approval by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, who, as the absolute leader of the regime has the last word on any major domestic or foreign policy”, one political analyst commented.
“Considering that the request emanates from one of the most distinguished Islamic leaders of Iraq, therefore, the Islamic Republic, in order to help resolve the problems in Iraq and the realisation of an independent government and real freedom there would accept and would appoint people to carry out discussions about Iraq", he pointed out.
Though Mr. Larijani named no one in particular, but informed Iranian diplomatic sources said it is highly probable that the Iranian delegation for talks with the Americans be led by Mr. Mehdi Safari, a former ambassador to Moscow who is the Foreign Affairs Minister's Special Envoy for Iraq.
Washington cut all ties with the Islamic Republic and imposed unilateral sanctions on the new regime after Islamic-revolutionary students stormed the huge American embassy in Tehran early November 1979 and took 55 American diplomats and staff as hostage for 444 days.
There was no immediate reaction from Washington to the Iranian conciliatory decision, but some Western diplomats said it is a “great opportunity Washington should not drop”.
"We want the wise and learned Iranian leadership to open a clear and direct dialogue with America for the sake of interests of Iraqi people and government and we demand them to give a positive answer to the proposal of the American Ambassador (in Iraq), Mr. Aziz, -- a close friend of Iranian clerical leaders, including Mr. Khameneh’i --told the opening session of the Iraqi Parliament reported by “Eufrat”, a Shi'ite television channel.
Tehran accepts the painful U-turn from its basic diplomacy sat by Mr. Khameneh’i on “no to dialogue with the Great Satan on any circumstance” at a time that Washington increases pressures on the Iranian theocratic regime over its controversial nuclear activities.
"We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," the White House said in a 49-page blueprint called the "National Security Strategy" of the United States, a copy of which was obtained by the French news agency AFP.
The place of pre-emption in our national security strategy remains the same", it said. "We do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack".
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently called Iran "the greatest challenge of any single country" facing America and on Wednesday, the House of Representatives pushed forward with a bill to impose sanctions on foreign firms doing business in Iran despite White House concerns it would hinder efforts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions.
There was evidence the Iranians provided "indirect help" to Sunni Arab insurgents who attack U.S. and Iraqi government troops.
On instructions from the White House, Mr. Zalmay Khalizad, the Afghan-born American ambassador to Baghdad had ten days ago proposed to the Iranians a meeting aimed at discussing ways and means to cooperate about mounting Iraqi difficulties, including averting the dangerous escalation of religious war and the formation of a government representing all ethnic and religious components of the fragmented nation, but Tehran had refused the suggestion.
“When (the now toppled Iraqi dictator) Saddam was in power and the Americans, the Europeans and Arab countries were supporting him, all Iraqi Shi’ites, Kurds and even Sunnis were our guests and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis had found refuge here. This something that the Iraqis never forget”, the semi-official Students News Agency ISNA quoted Mr. Larijani as having told reporters on the sideline of the Majles meeting centred on the latest situation over the nuclear standoff.
“It is a long time that the Americans have made this request. Their ambassador has said several times that solving some of Iraqi problems needs talking to Iranians. But we don’t trust them. Every time they need us, they make such demands to say other things afterward”, he added, reminding that in Iraq, “our natural ally” , Iran has supported the Iraqi Constitution, the elections of the Parliament, the formation of a new government as well as the process of democracy.
“At the same time, we have always said that the troubles in Iraq come from the occupiers”, Mr. Larijani, a former revolutionary guard officer and a close advisor to the Iranian fundamentalist and bellicose President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad stressed.
Khalilzad has criticized what he called Iran's "negative role" in Iraqi affairs, saying the country's diplomatic relationship with its neighbor was tainted by a policy "to work with militias, to work with extremist groups, to provide training and weapons."
He added that there was evidence the Iranians provided "indirect help" to Sunni Arab insurgents who attack U.S. and Iraqi government troops.
Iran denies the accusations and says that “based on intelligence reports, CIA and Israel are behind the bombing of religious places”, including the shrine of two Shi’ite imams at Samarra last month that triggered a deadly wave on inter-religious killing between the dominant Shi’ites and the minority Sunni Muslims. ENDS IRAN US TALKS 16306